The Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is currently serving 10 years in prison for running a liberal blog that questioned the kingdom’s theocratic rule. He has also been sentenced to 1000 lashes, of which 50 have been carried out. The astonishing cruelty of the physical punishment has attracted criticism from around the world, with the international media covering Badawi’s case and Amnesty International declaring him a prisoner of conscience.

After months of criticism from the media, human rights groups, and politicians, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally responded, saying in a statement that it would not allow external interference with judicial matters, and that international pressure would have no impact on the sentence.

“The Kingdom cannot believe and strongly disapproves what has been addressed in some media outlets about the case of Citizen [Badawi] and the judicial sentence he has received.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been one of the first states to promote and support human rights. Though these commitments are more than obvious, some international quarters and some media, regrettably, have emptied human rights of their sublime meanings.

“Instead, such quarters and media deviated towards politicising and abusing those rights to serve aggressions against the right of states to sovereignty. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will most certainly disallow such matters.”

The indignant tone will dismay those who were hoping that Saudi Arabia might quietly drop the punishment, as it has occasionally done in the past. Yet it should be no surprise that the kingdom is sticking by its right to administer brutal punishment. As Allan Hogarth, Amnesty’s UK’s head of policy and government affairs, said: “Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is utterly terrible. With a record of publicly beheading scores of people every year, imposing flogging and amputation sentences, banning protests and locking up peaceful activists – Saudi Arabia’s supposed ‘promotion’ of human rights is anything but.”

For more on Amnesty’s campaign to free Badawi, click here.